Thursday, Sep 21
Speedway Digest Staff

Speedway Digest Staff

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Jeffrey Earnhardt rang up his second straight top-20 finish Friday night in the VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway.

Earnhardt finished 19th the previous weekend at Texas Motor Speedway and backed up that run with a 20th on the lead lap at Darlington, one of NASCAR’s toughest tracks. The race was only Earnhardt’s second at Darlington.

“Jeffrey is really stepping forward and showing a lot of progress,” said team owner Johnny Davis. “He’s bringing our cars home and showing that he can move through traffic. He’s making good progress.”

Over the past two races, Earnhardt has jumped two spots to 17th in Nationwide driver points.

Rookie Chase Elliott won Friday night’s race, his second series win in a row.

The Nationwide Series is off next weekend before returning to action April 25 at Richmond, Va.

JD Motorsports PR

Landon Cassill matched his best performance of the season in Friday night’s VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 Nationwide Series race at Darlington Raceway, finishing 12th.

Cassill maneuvered through a two-lap green-flag dash to the finish to claim 12th, on the lead lap. Earlier in the season, he finished 12th at Bristol Motor Speedway.

“It was a very good night for us on a tough track,” Cassill said. “The guys helped keep me up near the front, and we were able to bring it home close to the top 10. To get out of here with a good finish is a big deal.”

The finish boosted Cassill one spot in the Nationwide driver standings to 13th. He is only 15 points out of the top 10.

Rookie Chase Elliott won the race, his second series win in a row.

The Nationwide Series is off next weekend before returning to action April 25 at Richmond, Va.

JD Motorsports PR

Dylan Kwasniewski drove the Rockstar Energy Drink Chevrolet to a 23rd-place finish in the only NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) race of the season at Darlington Raceway on Friday night. After fighting through adversity during the two practice sessions on Thursday afternoon, the No. 31 team rebounded nicely as Kwasniewski earned the 17th-starting position at the track "Too Tough To Tame" during NASCAR's knockout qualifying session. Once the green flag waved, Kwasniewski radioed to his crew that he was tight off exit of the corners and found himself in the 20th position when the first caution of the night came out on lap 18. During the caution, crew chief Pat Tryson called Kwasniewski down pit road for four tires, fuel and an air-pressure adjustment. After the pit stop, Kwasniewski reported to his team that his Rockstar Energy Drink Chevy felt much better as the Las Vegas, Nev. native worked his way up to as high as 14th on lap 66. Kwasniewski was scored in the 19th position on lap 69 when he and another competitor made contact to bring out the third caution of the race. During the caution, the No. 31 team worked diligently to keep Kwasniewski on the lead lap, while also fixing the damage to the Turner Scott Motorsports machine. Kwasniewski restarted in the 20th spot and worked his way up to as high as the 11th position on lap 101. With 12 laps remaining in the VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200, Kwasniewski suffered a flat tire. After coming down pit road to fix the issue, Kwasniewski brought the Rockstar Energy Drink Chevrolet home in the 23rd position.


Dylan Kwasniewski on Racing at Darlington Raceway

"Darlington is a fun, but very tough race track. We weren't able to get as much practice time in on Thursday as I would have liked, but my guys worked really hard after practice and we were rewarded nicely with a decent starting spot to start the race. The Rockstar Energy Drink Chevrolet was tight off exit and that hurt us a little bit throughout the night. We didn't have the luck that we needed tonight, but I think as a team we learned a lot. We will take the off week to regroup and get ready for Richmond in a couple of weeks."



In his second-career start at Darlington Raceway, Kyle Larson proved the "Too Tough To Tame" track could be conquered, but not without his fair share of Darlington stripes on the No. 42 Cartwheel by Target Chevrolet Camaro. Larson and his Turner Scott Motorsports (TSM) team made it through both NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) practices with speed on their side, running the third and eighth fastest lap times among the field. Larson and the No. 42 car made it through the first two rounds of NNS qualifying with top-five speeds, but as the final round began, Larson lost control of his car through Turn 2 and made extensive contact with the wall. His run, however, was good enough for a 12th-place starting position for the VFW Sport Clip Help A Hero 200. With wide-range damage to the right side, the TSM team worked diligently to repair the primary car before the start of race. As the green flag waved, Larson and the No. 42 Cartwheel Chevy dropped to the back of the field due to unapproved adjustments after qualifying, but within the first 30 laps, Larson was running just outside the top five. Throughout the 147-lap race, crew chief Scott Zipadelli called Larson down pit road three times under caution for four new tires, fuel and adjustments to correct his loose handling. After a tight battle with rookie Chase Elliott for second place, the final caution of the night arose and Zipadelli ordered a right-side tire change for the No. 42 Cartwheel Chevy. Restarting in the first position with just two laps to go, Larson's car got tight, forcing him to drop to the sixth position when the checkered flag waved.

Kyle Larson on Racing at Darlington Raceway: 

"It's been a rough weekend so far here at Darlington [Raceway]. We made it through practice without a scratch and we were really fast. Then, we were even better during qualifying but I was going for the pole and just lost it in Turn 2. This entire Turner Scott Motorsports organization came together and worked their butts off to repair our primary car before the race. I was pretty loose most of the night but towards the end of the race, I got tight. It was fun racing up front with Chase [Elliott] and I'm happy to see him get another win. I wish that could've been us out front this time around, but I learned a lot tonight and can't thank my team enough for their hard work."


NASCAR changed the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying format entering the 2014 season making it so the race winners in the first 26-races of the season would gain access to the Chase. Up to 16-race winners that is.

So far in the 2014 season there have been seven different winners in the first seven races. It seemed unlikely and still probably is that there will be more than 16 winners in the first 26 races but those without a win currently are going to start to feel the pressure as the spring months turn to summer.

Dale Earnhardt Jr, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, and Joey Logano are the seven drivers who right now can breath easy that they have won and should have a Chase spot waiting them come September.

Other big name drivers though have work to do over the next 19 races. At the top of that list is six-time champion Jimmie Johnson. Johnson is not having a bad season by any means and has been fast at almost every track so far. The No. 48 team just hasn't found victory lane. He currently is seventh in points which has him in the tenth Chase qualifying position of 16 currently.

Jeff Gordon has been close to winning a few times and is the current points leader. NASCAR made the rule that if the points leader after race 26 does not have a win they would be in the Chase even if there were 16 or more winners. Right now the active wins leader on the circuit holds the eighth Chase qualifying position.

Matt Kenseth won seven times in 2013 but has not found victory yet in 2014. Kenseth is second in the points and holds the current ninth Chase qualifying position.

Brian Vickers, Paul Menard, Ryan Newman, and Austin Dillon are currently ninth through 12th in points and hold the 11th through 14th Chase qualifying positions. They are all off to good starts to the season and could stay in Chase contention based on points all the way to race 26. Of course all four will be looking for that all important win still.

Denny Hamlin missed the race at Auto Club Speedway but is still 13th in points and holds the 15th Chase qualifying position. Hamlin ended the 2013 season with a win and won the Sprint Unlimited exhibition race to start the 2014 at Daytona but is under pressure after not picking up a points race win yet.

Three-time champion Tony Stewart currently is 14th in points and holds the final Chase qualifying position. He feels pretty good about his chances to pick up a win since two of his three Stewart-Haas Racing teammates, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch, already have wins. The team as a whole has been fast but reliability issues have hindered them overall. Stewart usually picks up his wins during the summer months.

The list of drivers with winning capabilities does not stop there though. Kyle Larson has shown he is a threat to win in his rookie season. He is 15th in points. Former multiple time NASCAR winners Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Marcos Ambrose, and Kasey Kahne are 16th through 19th in points. Jamie McMurray is 21st and Martin Truex Jr is 27th.

There is plenty of time for these proven winners to earn their victory again in 2014 but one thing is for sure as each week passes without them winning the pressure is going to mount. The new Chase qualifying system is going to create tension and drama all the way from this Saturday night at Darlington until Saturday night September 6th at Richmond.

Check out other great articles at Sports Media 101.

“Loose, loose, loose,” were the words spoken by Kyle Busch to his No. 54 Monster Energy team through Friday night’s VFW Sport Clips 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. The two-time 2014 race winners hoped to repeat their 2013 victory performance at the “too tough to tame” facility but ended up with a fourth-place result. It was the team’s seventh top-five finish in seven starts this season. Despite not catching the win, Busch started the race in the pole-qualifying position and led the field four times for a race-high 84 of the 147-lap event. The first-place starting spot solidified an 11-year streak of pole grabs for Busch in the Nationwide Series, a record 37.

The race weekend started smoothly for Busch and his Toyota Camry on Thursday when he took to the track for initial practice time. The car was reported as ‘good’ from Busch who in session one was scored second-quick among the field. During early laps in practice session two the momentum turned, though, when Busch slapped the wall which caused more damage than a traditional Darlington ‘stripe.’ Joe Gibbs Racing had shop fabricators on hand and they sprang into action, although used most of the remainder of final practice to make the necessary repairs. Busch did return to the track in final practice with five minutes left to test his reconfigured machine, but without much time to make further adjustments to the car’s balance.

On Friday afternoon the Monster Energy machine looked strong when the team captured their first pole-qualifying position of 2014. It was the same starting spot the JGR unit secured in the 2013 Darlington event before they took that run to a checkered flag finish. The veteran crew with leader Adam Stevens hoped for the same result with Busch this year but the ‘Lady in Black’ proved challenging for the No. 54 team.

Busch took the green flag and although in first place he immediately reported to his team that the car was ‘loose.’ An early race caution allowed the team to address the car-handling with a visit to pit road where they made wedge and track bar adjustments. Competitors began to creep into Busch’s lead territory when the field restarted and the defending race winner lost the top spot to rookie Chase Elliott, who would ultimately take the prize home later that evening.

“I’m trying to take care of it, just getting more loose now. There’s no lateral, nothing to tug on,” reported the veteran series driver whose spotter relayed to the team the left and right rear of Busch’s Camry were ‘fighting itself’ off the wall. A second visit to pit road, one-third of the way through the race, offered the team another chance to make what Stevens called ‘big swings’ at the car’s handling. More wedge and air pressure adjustments along with a rubber inserted on the left side were hoped to be the changes Busch needed to get back to the front. He was scored in sixth place.

Although big adjustments had been made by the No. 54 crew, a third visit to pit road, just past the event’s halfway point, had the team making further air pressure adjustments to aid with the car’s continued loose handling. The tides started to turn for Busch at this time when his JGR pit crew conducted a fast enough stop to gain him four spots and return the Monster Energy Toyota to the race track in first place. “Great job guys! That’s what I needed,” Busch communicated upon pit road exit.

Now in the closing laps of the race and back to green-flag racing, the No. 54 machine pulled away from the field while competitors behind him battled hard for position. At one point Busch had gained a 2.6-second gap between himself and the top-five positions. A repeat of the team’s 2013 winning performance from the pole started to materialize, until with seven laps remaining, a late-race caution appeared--normal for Darlington racing.

Busch brought his Camry to pit road one last time for service and tires. While the No. 54 and other teams chose to take on four fresh Goodyear tires, two cars gambled with only two Goodyear tires replaced, putting them ahead of Busch on the restart. With an inside third-place position for the restart, Busch was blocked in behind the leader and unable to move into the faster outside lane to retake the race lead. Once the white-flag exhibited, a hard-charging Elliott moved himself from sixth place into the lead and secured the victory, a back-to-back accomplishment for the 18-year old rookie driver.

Post-race a disappointed Busch described his night, “We were off really bad tonight.  I don’t know, we just didn’t have the car to win -- the 9 (Chase Elliott) did.  He made a really good move coming from as far back as he did on the restart.  I’m just disappointed with what we were able to do on that last restart because it wasn’t at all what I had planned out. We missed practice so we didn’t get a chance to work on the car to make the car better so that was the biggest thing.  I don’t know -- when the Hendrick cars are running one, two, three it goes to show you that they’re pretty good and we just weren’t very good. Could have won with no yellow, but came home fourth.  It’s a little disheartening.”

The No. 54 Monster Energy team owned by J.D. Gibbs maintains first place in the Owner’s Point standings, now leading the No. 22 Penske Racing Ford by 17 points.


Race Highlights: 

  • Ty Dillon qualified fifth and was the highest qualifying Richard Childress Racing entry. His other RCR teammates, Brian Scott, Cale Conley and Brendan Gaughan started seventh, 11th and 13th respectively.  
  • Ty Dillon earned a 10th-place finish, Brian Scott was 11th, Brendan Gaughan 22nd and Cale Conley was 33rd in his second-career NNS start.
  • Ty Dillon currently leads the Richard Childress Racing drivers in the Nationwide Series driver point standings in fourth, Brian Scott sits sixth and Brendan Gaughan is seventh.
  • Next up for the Nationwide Series is Richmond International Raceway. Catch all the action live on Friday, April 25 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time on ESPNews.




Brian Scott Finishes 11th in Friday Night Showdown at Darlington Raceway


Brian Scott and his No. 2 Shore Lodge Chevrolet Camaro had another solid qualifying effort at Darlington Raceway starting the NASCAR Nationwide Series VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 in seventh place. Early on at the Lady in Black, Scott reported fighting both loose and tight conditions in his Chevrolet Camaro as he drove around the 1.33-mile track looking for the fastest groove. The Shore Lodge pit crew made adjustments through the four visits to pit road during the 147-lap event. On the final restart, Scott found himself in position to move from the sixth position to the front of the field. On the wild green-white-checker restart, Scott was shuffled to 11th where he would ultimately finish the race. The finish moved Scott into sixth in the driver championship point standings heading into Richmond International Raceway in two weeks.


Start - 7th         Finish - 11th     Laps Led - 0     Pts - 6th


"That wasn't the finish we were looking for tonight. Our Shore Lodge Chevrolet Camaro fought both tight and loose conditions during the race. We knew our car would loosen up as the track cooled down, so we didn't want to make too big of adjustments. We are going to move onto Richmond and hopefully pick up the one spot that we missed there last fall."



Ty Dillon Finishes 10th in Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway


Ty Dillon drove the No. 3 Yuengling Light Lager Chevrolet Camaro to a 10th-place finish at Darlington Raceway Friday night, collecting the team's sixth top-10 of the season. After qualifying fifth and taking the green flag, Dillon quickly lost track position because the front splitter was hitting the racetrack. After the race's first caution on lap 13, crew chief Danny Stockman called Dillon to pit road to allow the team to release pressure off the splitter. Even after a lengthy pit stop, the team remained on the lead lap restarting in the 25th position. By lap 39, Dillon had his No. 3 Chevrolet Camaro in 15th place and by lap 61 he was back inside the top-10, thanks to a solid pit stop that gained the team three positions. For the remainder of the race, Dillon battled to stay inside the top-10 recording lap times faster than the race leader. On lap 140, the last caution lag flew setting up for a green-white-checker finish. Dillon gained speed before seeing the white flag, ultimately finishing 10th for his fifth consecutive top-10 finish. The No. 3 Chevrolet Camaro moved from third to fourth in the driver point standings heading into Richmond International Raceway.



Start - 5th   Finish - 10th     Laps Led - 0      Points - 4th



"Losing some track position in the beginning definitely hurt us, but our Yuengling Light Lager team responded well. After that second pit stop we gained some track position back, made the right adjustments and we were able to stay competitive on both the restarts and long green-flag runs. I heard Danny (Stockman) say a couple of times on the radio we had the fastest car on the track, but it was difficult to get to the front tonight. This race track is tough, for sure."




Late Race Incident Relegates Cale Conley to a 32nd-place finish at Darlington Raceway


Cale Conley returned to the seat of the No. 33 OKUMA Chevrolet Camaro for the second time this season, this time at Darlington Raceway.  The 21-year-old driver qualified 11th and battled inside the top-20 for a better part of the evening until a late-race incident relegated him to a 32nd-place finish. From the drop of the green flag, Conley reported an extremely loose condition through the corners. The evening's first caution flag waved on lap 16 and the Vienna, W. Va-native brought his No. 33 machine to pit road for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment. Conley restarted in the 13th spot and continued to fight the handling of his Chevrolet Camaro.  As the laps ticked away, the Nick Harrison-led team continued to make gains in the pits.  On lap 95 while running 13th, Conley made contact with another competitor which sent him spinning to the inside wall causing significant damage to the No. 33 Chevrolet Camaro. The crew went to work on pit road and Conley returned to the track several laps down, but was able to take the checkered flag for a 32nd-place finish.


Start -11th         Finish - 32nd         Laps Led - 0         Points - 0



"What a tough night, it's really not the finish I wanted to leave Darlington with.  We had a really strong OKUMA Chevrolet in practice and qualifying, but fought loose for a majority of the race.  The guys were great on pit road all night long, I hate that we weren't able to get the finish we deserved."



Brendan Gaughan Relegated to 22nd-place Finish at Darlington Raceway


Brendan Gaughan and the No. 62 South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet Camaro qualified 13th for the NASCAR Nationwide Series VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway. Gaughan started Friday night's race battling a loose race car. The yellow flag fell on lap 19 and the No. 62 Chevrolet hit pit road for chassis adjustments, four tires and fuel. Gaughan reported the handling was improving after the changes the team made. By the halfway point. the car's handling went the opposite direction and Gaughan began experiencing loose conditions. The Richard Childress Racing team fought with the loose and tight conditions all night. On the final restart at lap 142, Gaughan was racing for position and got loose coming out of turn four resulting in a 22nd-place finish. The No. 62 South Point Hotel & Casino driver heads to Richmond International Raceway seventh in the driver point standings.



Start - 13th       Finish - 22nd    Laps Led - 0      Points - 7th



"That's a tough way to end the night for the South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet. I am proud of the No. 62 guys for giving their all. We battled hard here at Darlington. All we can do is continue to improve and head to Richmond ready to race."

In his first start at Darlington Raceway, a track nicknamed ‘too tough to tame’, Roush Fenway Racing’s Ryan Reed battled hard all evening in his No. 16 American Diabetes Association Drive to Stop DiabetesSM presented by Lilly Diabetes Ford Mustang, to secure a 13th-place finish in Friday night’s NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) race.

Reed rolled off 18th for the second-consecutive night race for the NNS.  The 20-year-old rookie settled into the top-20 at the start of the race. 

By the time the first caution flag flew on Lap 17, Reed radioed to his crew that the No. 16 Mustang was just a little too tight, but was coming to him.  He visited pit road on Lap 18 for four tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment.  

A speedy pit stop by the No. 16 crew helped Reed gain four spots, putting the Bakersfield, California native in 15th-place for the restart.

Again, Reed settled into the top-20 for the next green flag run.  The team opted to bring Reed back down pit road under caution on Lap 87, taking four tires and fuel, along with a track bar adjustment and a rubber in the left rear spring.

Reed remained patient and continued to work his way through the field as the caution flag waved several times throughout the remainder of the race.  By the time he crossed the finish line, the rookie was able to move into 13th-place in his first start at Darlington Raceway.


James Buescher started in the 22nd position for the Sport Clips 200 at Darlington Raceway. Looking to tame the 1.366-mile oval Buescher quickly drove up inside the top-15 within the first quarter of the scheduled 147-lap event. It was just past the halfway mark on Lap 75 that Buescher and the No. 99 Ruud Camry suffered a cut left-front tire in close-quarters racing and as a result sent Buescher to the outside retaining wall. After multiple pit stops under yellow, the Ruud team took the restart in the 21st position. With the alignment of the front wheels severely altered by the contact with the wall, the crew called Buescher back down pit road to fix the car under green. In the process, the No. 99 Ruud team lost three laps to the leader. Buescher continued to battle the remaining second half of the race to try and salvage a decent finish to the night for the Ruud team. Buescher brought home the No. 99 Ruud Camry in the 25th position three laps down to the leader.

James Buescher Quote:   

"I hate it for my guys. I was hoping to have a good showing for Ruud who was on our car for the first time this year. My Ruud team worked hard all weekend and we were starting to get a good handle on our Ruud Camry after a couple of the early pit stops. Close racing at Darlington is definitely something this place is known for. We'll take this weekend off, regroup and come back even stronger at Richmond."


RAB Racing PR


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